At a press conference on Wednesday morning, Santa Clara County officials announced the County’s submission of its vaccine plan to the State of California.
As of now, the expected number of doses is unclear, but freezer purchases and installations are underway to manage the vaccines’ ultra-cold storage requirements when they arrive.
The safest and most promising vaccine candidates currently headed to market come from:
—University of Oxford and AstraZeneca, which offer a vaccine shown by clinical trials to be at least 70% effective (or higher, depending on the dosage)
—Moderna and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), which offer a vaccine shown by clinical trials to be 94.5% effective
—Pfizer and BioNTech, which offer a vaccine shown by clinical trials to be 95% effective
The positive announcements in recent weeks about these new vaccines have spurred a much-needed sense of hope among Americans as we head into a grim winter already marked by spiking COVID hospitalizations and case numbers. Over Thanksgiving weekend, 801 new COVID cases were confirmed in Santa Clara County in a single day, with the total number of deaths since the pandemic began reaching 482. Meanwhile, countywide, as of Wednesday morning, only 44 ICU beds were unoccupied by patients; in the Eastern and Southern parts of the County, ICUs are presently 93% occupied. But the task of ensuring the forthcoming vaccines’ availability and then distributing the doses will be complex and take months, hence California counties’ vaccine plans.
Key to Santa Clara County’s vaccine plan is its vaccine taskforce, which includes representatives from local hospitals, county agencies, clinic networks, and healthcare systems, among them Kaiser Permanente and Stanford University. Their main goal: to help vaccine providers attend to their job with maximum efficiency and effectiveness, addressing key components of vaccine logistics, from storage to vaccinator training/preparedness to data management.
The first people to get the shots will be those in the high-risk population, including frontline healthcare workers and those residing in long-term care facilities. The County’s vaccine plan classifies such people as “Phase 1a populations.” Says the plan, “With the changing landscape of vaccine candidates and the concern of adequate storage and handling for frozen or ultra-frozen vaccines, we have determined that PHD [Public Health Department], in addition to the 12 acute care hospitals within the county, will need to collectively vaccinate the Phase 1a populations. We cannot assume that everyone has the capability to vaccinate their employees that fall under the Phase 1a populations.”
To ensure that all Phase 1a recipients are properly vaccinated, Point of Dispensing (POD) agreements will be struck with all local acute care hospitals.
In the meantime, Santa Clara County remains in the state’s Purple COVID tier, complete with a ban on contact sports and a 2-week quarantine requirement for those who’ve returned from traveling over 150 miles beyond county limits.